When I left New Line Cinema in June of ’07, and I was seriously considering writing a book about the idiocy I saw everyday in the way the studio was run.
A year later, June ’08, New Line was officially closed and folded into Warner Bros, leaving nearly 600 people without a job. Suddenly my book idea seemed like sour grapes.
I did learn a lot at New Line. And I lived and breathed feature post production for a long time. So now that I’m working Freelance I’ve come across a consistently strange misunderstanding.
There’s a term in Post Production called “Picture Lock”. And as a writer I’m a guy that thinks words mean something…. Picture (the film, the edit choices, the way things go together)…. Lock (Final, decided, no longer up for debate or open for changes).
Elementary? I thought so – but the logic vacuum which seemed a plague of the studio system is sucking it’s way through indie films as well… Just in different ways.
I’m a pretty laid back editor… Editors have to be, it seems to me, as everyone else around that job tends to be constantly losing their mind… And if you keep paying, I’ll keep cutting… that’s my job.
But indie films like to work in Flat rates. I understand that, cause you don’t have the big checkbook in the sky which every studio seems to use. (That reminds me… is our government taking private lessons from Hollywood on how to budget… That’s a different entry I guess…)?
So, a flat rate for a set number of steps. Let’s say 1-10. and right around Step 7 you have to lock the picture. Decide “that’s it, that’s our movie”. All the fun liquidity provided by Non-Linear post suddenly becomes very solid, and very linear.
Cause steps 8-10 depend on the film to be unchanged.
Yet I’ve found myself on 2 projects in a row where we get to step 8 (or 9) and the filmmaker suddenly goes… “Ya know… let’s just change this…” Fine. If we weren’t at step 8 when you had this amazing flash of coffee fueled genius…. but we’re past Picture lock…
Suddenly, the project returns to step 6 and has to redo 6,7,&8 just to get back on track. You got me for a flat rate. I agreed to 10 steps. Now your indecisive backtracking means I’m doing 13 steps worth of work cause we did 3 of them twice. Which means you owe me more money.
You’d think I punched their mother in the face.
Decisions have concequences… that’s not just a snappy slogan for drug awareness or driver’s ed. Nope, it even applies to filmmaking.
But I state this clearly and all I get is crickets. Or sob stories.
And I try to be logical about it. Explain the steps and why you can’t tweak a film incessantly from the day you shot it until it’s screened on Cable 5 years from now.
George Lucas may redo Star Wars every time Apple builds a new computer, but it’s not something to strive for. His movie isn’t getting better, and neither is yours.
But that’s logical… and I don’t think there’s any air in this room….
And my parachute is apparently just a backpack.